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New to this forum - Need advice

3088 Views 19 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Mike_M
Hello all,

I'm glad I've found this forum. Although I'm not exactly new to planted tanks, I don't think I've been doing things quite correctly all along. I've had aquariums for many years and my current 33 gallon planted tank has been running in its present format for probaby 4 or 5 years now. Although it doesn't look horrible, it is far from the way I would like it. I think I've made many errors in the way I've done things, and would like your opinions on how to fix it. During the past 6 months or so I have been very neglectful in the maintenance on the planted tank because I have been concentrating on my new reef tank. Now that the reef tank has reached a kind of stability, it's time to turn my attention back to the poor neglected planted tank sitting beside it.

The tank is a 33 gallon - 36" long x 12" wide. The lighting is 2 36" normal output flourescent tubes, one aqua glow and one power glow. The bulbs are very old and desperately need to be changed. Before I do that, however, is this enough light for a proper planted tank? Should I be considering upgrading to power compacts? Or will the normal output bulbs suffice?

The substrate is approx 2" - 3" of fine silica sand topped with 1" to 1 1/2" of natural gravel. I had put peat underneath the silica sand when I set the tank up. I have never really liked this substrate - too thick in many places, the sand and gravel are always getting mixed up, and the colour is too light for my taste. I am considering draining the tank and replacing the substrate with something more plant-specific. The silica sand was based on well intentioned advice from an LFS who thought it would be good for the plants to root in. I guess it's worked okay so far, but I'm thinking something slightly coarser and looser would likely be better. I'm thinking of replacing it with flourite. I imagine I'd need about 3 bags.

The filtration is an Aquaclear 200 I believe. I am thinking this should be upgraded to a canister filter of some sort - probably ehiem. I also keep a hagen 201 powerhead in the corner for additional flow.

For carbon dioxide supplementation I have an inexpensive yeast type setup from Nutrifin, I believe. It's meant for a smaller tank, but it definitely does help when it's running on my tank. I haven't been using it for the past few months, but I got it going on the weekend again. I can't remember the name of the fertilizer I add during water changes, but I'll check it when I get home tonight. I also dose flourish excel during water changes - just a couple of capfuls.

Here are some pictures of the tank as it sits now. I just did a major cleaning and waterchange on the weekend. The large piece of wood is mangrove root that I've had lying around from a previous tank from several years ago. I just put it in to the tank this weekend. It seems to be releasing an awful lot of tanin - more than I had expected. I don't mind a bit of tanin in the water, but it's somewhat darker than I would like. Perhaps activated carbon would help in clearing it up... anyway, here are the pics:

Whole tank:

Left side:

Right side:

You can probably make out in the pics I have a beard algae issue on the driftwood with the anubius on it. It's been there for quite a while, doesn't spread off that log, so it doesn't bother me too much. I would prefer it if it were gone, however. I'm thinking of a drastic overhaul - changing substrate, plants, driftwood, etc. Any comments or advice would be much appreciated! (sorry for the long post!)
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I would definately get some more high powered lights and a better substrate. I really do like flourite quite a bit. As for Co2, If pressurized is a problem due to cost (and don't I know all about that problem), it might not be a bad idea to just make a little DIY co2 reactor and ditch the nutrafin cannister and use a 2 liter bottle yeast generator in it's place. I'm sure your co2 levels would rise drastically if that step would be taken. It also would only cost you about $10-15 of parts, some research time, some collecting of the parts time, and some labor time. The Benefits would be tremendous over that nutrafin system.

Of course it doesn't get better than pressurized, if you can afford it, the benefits under higher light situations are critical.

On another note, welcome to the forum. I am glad that you are taking more of an active interest in your planted tank. I wish I still had a reef setup. A reef setup next to a well maintained planted tank is stunning.

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With your rainbows, if you want to replace them with some rainbows that don't get rather large I would look into getting some dwarf neon rainbows (Praecox). Great little fish, show alot of the same characteristics of larger rainbows, and don't get over 2" usually.

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